Exploring language barriers in Ghazaleh Avarzamani’s Apologie for Understanding

Language barriers and miscommunication define Asia House's latest exhibition

Exploring language barriers in Ghazaleh Avarzamani’s Apologie for Understanding

31/10/14

By David Cowell

Emerging Iranian artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani wants you to understand. Or misunderstand. They often go hand in hand.

Her exhibition Apologie for Understanding – in the gallery at Asia House for the next two weeks – is an exploration of how language gets  in the way of communication and can easily mean different things to different people.

“I am focusing on understanding and misunderstanding and how language can be a barrier,” the 33 year-old artist told Asia House in an interview.

“Language becomes more problematic when it comes to individual people like me who have two or three languages,” she said. “I want to put the viewer into this vague and layered situation through these installations.”

The exhibition includes a mix of mediums including Letraset sheets and felt flooring strips as well as the artist’s distinctive digital embroidery techniques.

In a series of texts and designs embroidered on to the familiar cloths popular in Asia to scrub oneself in the shower, the artist melds the concept of brainwashing and body washing.

Ghazaleh Avarzamani's digital embroidery spells out her message of linguistic ambiguity

Ghazaleh Avarzamani’s digital embroidery spells out her message of linguistic ambiguity

“I chose this material because I was thinking about the idea of brainwashing and how you could be brainwashed in any sense with language,” she said.

Similarly, during a spell in China, Avarzamani marvelled at the popularity of tee shirts covered in random English words which actually said nothing.

“They just want to be very modern and show they are very western but the text is completely nonsense,” she said. “It’s just a form. It’s nothing. So I started playing with these things and the idea of brainwashing and then combined them.”

Another series of poster executions using flooring felt references the textbooks she used as a teenager to learn English and their surreal setpiece conversations.

“It’s kind of nonsense because while you are learning something they are treating you like a fool – you engage in stupid conversation just to learn something. It’s very intangible.”

Surreal language drives the need to communicate

Surreal language drives the need to communicate

The work using Letraset exemplifies her focus on how language can blur understanding.

“I have scratched the letters off and I am left with the plastic paper, which brings us back to what I say to you and what effect this has on you. The words are gone but these are the reflections of the words. You can’t really see from what is left what was really said – you just have an impression.”

The exhibition runs until 14 November and is free to the public. Click here for more details.

To view a slideshow of the exhibition, click below

To view a teaser of the exhibition, click below

Asia House regularly opens its doors to a range of exhibitions. Click here for more details.

David Cowell is a freelance journalist working for Asia House.